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Dunes with comet tails

8 Jan 2018, 17:44 UTC
Dunes with comet tails NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

The north polar dunes in this 575×325 m (0.36×0.2 mi) scene are made of dark sand covered by bright winter frost (which will soon sublimate away, as this image was taken in late spring). To the right of the dunes extend pale yellow bumpy hills, making the dunes look like they have little “comet tails”. What’s going on here? These dunes are migrating towards the left, so the tails are what they leave behind. The dunes are located very far north, where the ground is always frozen. Ice freezes the lowest parts of the dunes, so that as the upper sections can be pushed downwind, the lower sections remain locked in place behind. This can happen on Earth too, but here it’s usually the water table stabilizing the lower portions of the dunes (and many of the thick continental sandstones, like the Navajo sandstone, were built this way millions of years ago).

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